A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

02 December 2008

Interesting Times to be Canadian

Canadian politics has a reputation for being boring. Especially with the Whamma-Bamma-Obama election taking place just south of us. But not any more!

For my non-Canuckistani Avid Fans (what are there, two of you?) let me explain:

Canada had an election about six weeks ago.

In violation of a law he inflicted on us at the start of his first minority government, promising fixed election dates, Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulled the trigger and precipitated us into our third election in four years. At a cost of roughly 300 million dollars.

The outcome pleased nobody
--the Conservative party retained a minority, the Liberals lost seats, the NDP gained a bit, and the Bloc Quebecois stayed at much the same level of support it's had since 1988 or so.

As the financial crunch deepened, Harper, facing accusations of not doing anything to blunt its impact, decided to slash ... democracy.

Briefly, Canada pays $1.95 per vote to its federal political parties. This was introduced in order to better regulate donations and donation limits. The Conservative party has a great deal of private money backing it up, as you might expect of a party clinging to the "don't-tax-corporations-or-the rich," economic policies of Reagan and Bush.

So in nothing less than a naked power grab, calculated to gut the opposition's finances, Harper decided that the way to save money in Ottawa was cut that $1.95 per vote--which would have saved about $30 million. A drop in the ocean, truly, when the auto sector is begging for billions.

Harper's supposed to be an economist. Supposed to be. Yet he introduced no stimulus measures, against the advice of any number of economists,and announced that, in utter contradiction of his own campaign promises, we might be facing a federal deficit (following his government's waste of the rainy-day surplus that successive Liberal governments had built for precisely such a contingency).

{Actually, the budget was predicted to remain balanced--based on assumptions that amounted to a Canadian astronaut discovering rubies on the moon.}

And when Harper gored the Opposition's ox he did Canada a favour. Because he woke them up.

The Liberals would have been floundering about looking for a leader for the next eighteen months or so, allowing Harper to possibly find another few folks to give him the mandate he's been claiming he got last time around.

The NDP and the Bloc would happily have continued voting with or against the government, as served their interests. But when the money gets yanked out of their hands, politicans get testy:

The Liberals, NDP, and Bloc have apparently worked out a coalition power-sharing agreement. Which could mean Harper will soon be off to his retirement ranch, presumably overlooking the oil sands his power was based on.

In response, Harper and his supporters have claimed:

1) It's some sort of dirty politics, possibly illegal.

Which fails to explain why Harper tried to do it in 2004.

And as for dirty politics--try taping an opposition conference call. Did someone say "illegal", Mr. Nixon ... I mean Harper?

Of course, Harper believes it's illegal only when it's his conversation being taped.

(Side note: it's long been suspected that the last election was held to forestall the parliamentary investigations into Harper's bribe to dying MP Chuck Cadman, as well as into the Conservative Party's "in-and-out" financial chicanery.)

2) It's "undemocratic".
Harper may believe this to be true--after all, he continually confuses his minority with a mandate.

But let's just check the numbers: 5.5 million voters went for the Conservatives. 8.5 chose one of the opposition parties.

So a coalition clearly represents more voters than the current government.

3) It's a "back-room deal" done without an election to really affirm the will of the people.

See my argument above. But also see Harper's communication policy--"What I say goes." Harper, historically, does more governing in the back room, out of sight of the Canadian populace, than any previous PM. He's muzzled press and his own ministers both--Partly to stop them saying things that might reveal the Conservative Party for the far-right party it actually is rather than the "centrist" organ it's portrayed as by Harper's flacks. Is it any wonder that every paper save the National Post is giving in to the Schadenfreude, just a little?

But even the Post has hard words for Steven Harper! That's gotta hurt.

As to the "will of the people,"--Harper has never had more than 38% of the population behind him. And with that kind of support the Liberals traditionally would have had a majority (as he's fond of pointing out).

4) It's "unprecedented" and that the correct thing would be for the opposition parties to trigger another election no-one wants, instead.

Because, well, Harper would never do anything like, say, get together with allies and make peace for the political good of the nation.

But in fact, there's been one more situation like this--although that coalition was formed to keep government viable, rather than topple it, so that this really is unprecedented in modern memory.

Put me down as inspired. That three squabbling parties with so little in common might just snatch the pie from Harper's mouth is a beautiful thing.

In every "Lassie" episode there was the moment known as the "Y'see Timmy ..." in which the Lesson of the Day was delivered.

Y'see Stevie, some people can get together, like. They put aside their differences and do soemthing that could benefit them all. It's called compromise."

Now don't get me wrong--Having the Bloc Quebecois, a party dedicated to smashing Canada into three parts, in government makes me a little nervous. And I've never been wild about the NDP's economic policies.

But the Bloc is going to have to tread a very tight line alongside the federalist parties. And the NDP may possibly realize how disastrous some of those ideas are (not that they'd necessarily make things worse than Harper's would).

But Harper was wrong for the country, and for this time. The US just dumped his nearest ideological analogue, and had he not set up such an efficient smear machine and been facing an uninspiring opponent in Stephane Dion, Harper'd have been in his rocking chair already.

In response, Harper has given his MPs and supporters the go-ahead to use "any means necessary" to staunch the blood. But he's already lost a lot of support for his astounding hubris. Even his own party thinks he's nuts. If he manages to survive, he may look pretty good. But if the Conservatives lose government, I think we may soon see a leadership contest.

If Harper wanted me to actually admire his cojones, instead of regarding him as the bully he's always been, he'd step forward, apologize publicly to the nation for his confrontational, divisive, positively Cheneyesque governing style and offer the Liberals a power-sharing arrangement.

But that would require compromise. Something Steve Harper has never been able to manage.

There may be terrible things awaiting us under the coming Bloc Canada, or whatever we decide to call it. But it might just be fantastic.

In honour of which, here's the loverly Diana Krall, Canadienne extraordinaire--who sneers just like Mme Metro.

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At 2:08 p.m., Blogger mister anchovy said...

The whole business is very exciting, isn't it?

At 3:34 p.m., Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

I'm pretty excited about this myself. I was about to give up on Canadian politics altogether...

At 3:44 p.m., Blogger The Nag said...

Well said, Metro (from someone whose life is revolving around this so-called crisis).

At 4:13 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you seriously telling me that Canadians have politics?

At 12:56 a.m., Anonymous G Eagle Esq Penoida said...

Guten Tag, Monsieur Metro

This is all beyond my Ken


the Quebeckers might profitably ponder the Question :

PourQuoi la Canada

The answer in 1867 seems to have been that the alternative was for Canadians (French und Englisch) alike to be "absorbed" into the United States

Suddenly, being Canadian and reaching accommodations with (albeit opposing) fellow=countrymen became surprisingly attractive

Is this not still the case now !! I hope Common Sense & Mutual Accommodations will prevail

Je reste le vestre servant obedient etc


PS Peut-estre, Mdm S-Star might profitably ponder :

1. Why the United States ?

It seems to have started because (no longer threatened with having to become French), Yankees objected to paying taxes to cover Government Expenditure which benefited them

AND the Historical Outcome - levels of taxation & Government Deficits that make George III mild & un-intrusive

At 7:43 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

@mister anchovy
Ain't it just, though?

I was prepared to sort of slump back into my seat and wait unil Harper did something bear-baiting enough to stir the opposition to actually oppose him, throw down the gauntlet, and trigger yet another election.

Then I anticipated we'd get stuck with a Conservative majority, because Dion, as unprepossessing as he is, is still, for my money, a better leader than Ingateff or Rae.

@The Nag
Hopefully the revolving will slow down if the Canadian Coalition manages to bring gravity to Ottawa.

It was a surprise to some Canadians as well.

@G Eagle
Penoida? *blink*

One of the saddest things about our political system, of the past twenty years or so so it seems to me, has been the turn from service to the country and genuine concern for either conserving the "Canadian Way"--whatever that is, or for steering the nation toward the sort of decisions that have heretofore made us much admired worldwide, to the pure, cynical, often-profit-driven pursuit of power.

Harper is merely the most egregious example. Most of his followers have a social agenda dedicated to stripping out the most recognizable bits of our country. Indeed, only his tight lid on communications has prevented the ugliest of them from making headlines.

The Bloc, at least, has its biases written into its charter.

The bit I find interesting is whether the Bloc might find itself, in government, in the deeply ironic position of having to support federalism for the purposes of clinging to power.

The NDP has always had the freedom to advance, politely-put, "edgy" ideas, since no-one thought they would ever be implemented.

The Liberal have been soundly spanked for the corruption of the past two decades, but have been left in disarray by their own unwillingness to face down the Conservatives on confidence issues.

All in all, I feel the Liberals are a better, though not great, choice to take the country in the right direction.

But a coalition opens possibilities never dreamed of previously.

As to the US--taxation I have no problem with. However, taxes levied for other than the benefit of the taxed, done without representation in a parliament another world away? I'd probably find that worth tossing some tea overboard for.

At 2:42 p.m., Anonymous G Eagle Esq Reclog said...

Tres interessant

Mrs Lovely-Eagle's Great=Grandfather was a Gold Commissioner on Princeton B.C = it would have been interesting to have his take on modern Canuckistan

..... but wasn't British taxation being levied to recoup only some of the costs incurred in defending the Middle Colonies

.... weren't the Boston rioters an 18th Century American parallel to 20th Century British Football Hooligans ....

I've taken to quoting your Word Verification


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